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America’s Fifth-Largest Pizza Chain Is a Midwestern Gas Station

This article is part of our Cocktail Chatter series, where we dive into the wild, weird, and wondrous corners of history to share over a cocktail and impress your friends.

The vast majority of gas station convenience stores are nothing to write home about. Bags of chips and candy line the aisles, sodas stock the fridges, and if there are full-sized meals available, they’ve likely been sitting under a heat lamp for hours. But not all gas station pit stops are created equal, and anyone who’s set foot in a Casey’s outpost will vouch for its superiority. Founded in 1968 in Boone, Iowa, Casey’s Retail Company (better known simply as Casey’s) was originally a stand-alone general store that provided gasoline and pre-packaged groceries to locals. The store was generally popular among small communities, and over the course of the ‘70s, more and more stores cropped up across the state. But in 1984, Casey’s management made the decision to add one item to the menu that would revolutionize the chain and, in turn, generate a cult-like following: pizza.

With over 2,600 locations across 17 states in the Midwest today, Casey’s is considered the fifth-largest pizza chain in the U.S., dishing out over 63 million single slices and a whopping 30 million whole pies per year. Now, it’s not necessarily unusual to find a slice of pizza in a gas station convenience store — if you’ve ever made a pit stop along the highway, you’re likely familiar with grab-and-go Pizza Hut — but it is unusual that gas station pizza is genuinely enjoyable. What sets Casey’s apart from other c-store pizzas is that the dough for each pie is made by hand and from scratch every morning at each location.

Many Midwesterners swear by the pizza’s freshness, with one Reddit user commenting on the subreddit r/pizza that they haven’t found “anything that even comes close” after moving from rural Illinois to NYC, widely regarded as the pizza capital of the nation. Many others adore the chain for its specialty pizzas, including its taco and breakfast pizzas, the latter of which is fondly referred to as “bizza” in Iowa. Piled with sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon or sausage, the breakfast pizza was even the subject of fast-food controversy involving former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke while on the campaign trail in 2019.

Pizza aside, Casey’s is also the fourth-largest holder of liquor licenses in the U.S., making it the perfect one-stop-shop for dinner and a 6-pack. In October 2023, Casey’s was even granted the trademark for “The Official Pizza and Beer Headquarters” by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

As one Redditor argues, “People from outside the Midwest may look down on us for our small town reliance on Casey’s, because how good could gas station pizza actually be?” In this users words: really f*cking good.

*Image retrieved from Casey’s on Instagram

The article America’s Fifth-Largest Pizza Chain Is a Midwestern Gas Station appeared first on VinePair.

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